Fife put a breakfast of breaded fish with grapes in front of Oboe. She felt queasy just looking at it.
“Don’t be shy,” her brother said. “You’re welcome to anything in my home.”
Most of the family had been busy after the reunion. Everyone had jobs or children to worry about. Fife had both, but had gone out of his way to make time for Oboe. They sat together on his patio in a pair of wicker chairs, watching his kids scream and wrestle in the yard.
Oboe forced herself to eat a grape. “You work with grandmother, right? Do you know a lot about her?”
“Less than you’d think.” Fife said. “I am only an envoy. When I do see the Fair Lady, she is aloof. Distant. I count it a blessing. It is dangerous to be close to her.”
Oboe stared at the limbs of the nearby trees. She wondered if any Whispers were nearby. Leaning toward her brother, she spoke in a hush. “I saw her hurt someone.”
Fife did not bat an eye. “Did you.”
“She made me bring her a sword made of suffering,” Oboe said. “She drove it right into a fairy. That poor fairy is going to be in pain every day forever now.”
“I see,” Fife said. “Then the Fair Lady sealed the curse again.”
“Huh?” Oboe stared at him, eyes widening as realization dawned on her. “You knew.”
Fife set his glass down. “Not officially, but it’s easy enough to pick up on these things in middle management. A human assassin came to the Circle years ago, and almost managed to kill Bassoon. She has taken… measures to make sure the spell does not work as intended.”
“You knew!” Oboe said again. “Those fairies are in pain! Why haven’t you done anything?!”
“Sister.” Fife had just the hint of a grimace. “A word of advice. Try not to think about it.”
“Don’t think about it?! What?? How am I supposed to do that?! What grandmother is doing is awful!”
Fife tore a handful of grapes off their stem, and popped one after another into his mouth. “You do not grow as old as the Fair Lady without a silver tongue and iron fangs. Spilt blood is the reality of the Fairy Circle. We must put up with it, or we wind up like father.”
“What do you mean?” Oboe said.
“He never had the teeth to serve Bassoon. He stopped following orders. So, she had him fired from his work. Forbid him from using his magic, left him with no way to gather Fates. …He won’t live much longer.”
Oboe sat up. “That’s why grandmother looks so much younger than him.”
“She has been with us since the War of the Devil King,” Fife said. “It is not natural for a fairy to live that long. I can’t imagine how many Fates she needs to sustain herself.” He rolled the last grape between his fingers, staring. “Enough that she must steer the course of history. She’s… terrifying.” He took a shaky breath. “You’ve really captured her attention. I’m not sure whether to be jealous or afraid for you. This is dangerous work. Keep your head down and do as she says, no matter how bad it gets.”
“Why?” She asked. “Why do you work for her if she scares you? If she makes you do things you don’t like?”
Fife broke eye contact. “I’m not proud of the work I do, but I won’t wind up like dad. I want a good life for me and my girls. I have to do whatever it takes.”
There was a loud crash that made him wince. He jumped to his feet.
“Oboe Diane Tworeed!” He said, raising his voice. “What did I tell you about throwing your sister?!”
The other Oboe stood over her dazed sibling, amid the debris of what used to be a very fancy wooden archway in the garden. “She started it!”
Fife covered his face. “I don’t care who started it! Go to your room!”
Under enormous protest, the children were banished to their respective bedrooms. Oboe helped her brother clean up the mess. She gathered the broken pieces of wood and felt a growing sense of unease. She hoped that seeing her family would make her feel better about what happened, but it was making it worse. “It bothers me that you don’t like what grandmother does, but you don’t want to do anything about it.”
Fife creased his brow. “It’s how things are. We can’t change it. You remember what it’s like to be nameless, don’t you? It’s taken me years to get where I am. Don’t forget what it’s like to have something to lose.”
The argument with Theo ate at the back of Oboe’s mind. He was so upset that his father had done something terrible. He wanted so bad to set things right. Even so, Fife was right. Oboe did have something to lose. The idea of losing her family again made her want to cry, but being told to forget what she had seen made her feel worse.
“Grandmother is wicked,” Oboe said. “We should do something. There should be consequences.”
Fife grabbed her by the shoulders, startling her. “Oboe. Don’t talk like that. Not here, not in front of any of your family. Creatures that cross the Fair Lady disappear! I won’t have you put yourself or any of us at risk, do you understand me?!”
Oboe pulled away. The fear in her brother’s eyes left her scared too. “Then… what am I supposed to do?”
“Nothing,” Fife said. “Do as you’re told. Don’t think about it. Stay safe.”